Moving towards an open platform paradigm

The digital health strategy for Catalonia

At the 2021 DHWS21 conference in Barcelona, it was clear that integrated care based on openEHR will be a major focus for Catalonia’s healthcare, a globally respected region for its innovative approach to healthcare.

The major challenge the region faces is similar to what most healthcare organisations are seeing: inability to share or access data between different systems. 

At the 2021 Barcelona hashtag#DHWS21 event “Moving towards an open platform paradigm: the digital health strategy for Catalonia,” Jordi Piera Jiménez shared an important thought – “The #OpenStandards and #OpenData will allow clinicians to have a single comprehensive patient overview that will allow them more time to focus on the patient.”

Representatives of patients, policymakers, vendors, and clinicians discussed expected benefits from fully integrated care based on openEHR:

👉🏽 Patient view by Emilio Cortegoso – Need for a holistic and connected approach across health & care, and no more need to carry around paper documentation.

👉🏽 Pol Pérez Sust – director of Information System Area of Catalunya was that using a common data model in all the systems and decoupling the data from applications is essential. This will advance IT semantic interoperability, apply hashtag#InnovationInHealthcare, and reduce needed investments.

👉🏽 Clinicians’ view by Josep Vidal-Alaball (MD, PhD, MPH) argued for a holistic view of a patient record and the importance of including data from outside healthcare – i.e. social services.

👉🏽 Industry view by Francisco Lupiañez-Villanueva was that the proposed approach would also trigger competition and drive innovation.

At the panel discussion of Catalonia’s digital strategy, Emilio Cortegoso, a patient who recently recovered from the coronavirus, presented his experience to highlight the current problem:

After being discharged from the hospital, he was given lots of paper documents that he brought with him to be scanned during his check-up appointment. Prior to the appointment, he received as many as three different calls to check his background information.

The current EHR systems are also proving to be too expensive to maintain, the panel revealed, so the region has opted for a different approach.

Catalonia is now investing EUR 40m in a new digital health strategy to focus on developing a new model of information systems and Electronic Health Record based on the openEHR – open data standards.

Pol Perez Sust, director of Information System Area of Catalunya, said at the panel that the initial digitalization strategy that gave freedom to healthcare providers to choose EHR wasn’t wrong and it helped accelerate the first wave of digitalization. However, he added, it is now becoming a limitation as data cannot be shared in the semantic context.

Jordi Piera Jiménez, director of the Digital Strategy Office at Catalan Health Service, agreed, saying that it is imperative to enable the data to flow more freely between systems.

Piera’s expectation is that the open standards and open data will allow clinicians to have a single comprehensive patient overview that will allow them more time to focus on the patient.

For a truly holistic view of patient record, Josep Vidal Alaball, head of the Central Catalonia Primary Care Innovation and Research Unit at Institut Català de la Salut, drew attention to the importance of also including data from institutions outside healthcare, such as social services. He believes the new open data system will allow connection with other relevant areas and support more integrated care approach.

Perez Sust emphasized that using a common data model in all the systems and decoupling the data from applications is essential so that all healthcare providers can apply the same data model.

He added this is the first step to advance IT semantic interoperability and it’s a key concept to share data and apply innovations as well as reduce needed investments. He added that the strategy needs support from the industry so that together with healthcare providers the use of healthcare data can be intensified.

Piera agreed, saying the new approach will facilitate faster scaling up of solutions and digitalisation once the initial transition happens.

Francisco Lupiáñez-Villanueva, co-founder at Open Evidence, who was another participant at the conference, believes that the new approach will also trigger competition and drive innovation. 

This article was originally published on July 10, 2021

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